3 random words - Partnership, Consistency & Curation

published by Ben Allen

Do you ever hear relatively random words over and over again and then think "Woh! Where did that come from? Why do people care about this all of a sudden?". Here are 3 words I have been hearing a lot recently in and around the user experience field and within my own job.


2 main contributing sources for "partnership":

Source 1 - AT&T and Apple. Apple prides itself on control of the user experience. Apple has made a business of controlling the hardware, the operating system and the software of the devices they launch. With this kind of control you can live or die by your own decisions and make progress on feedback given directly to you.

Enter the iPhone. Apple has the same control (maybe more with the curation of the App Store) but cannot launch the iPhone without a carrier. A partner. In the US that's AT&T. AT&T is clearly swamped by iPhone demand. Depending on where you live you'll get huge differences in AT&T service. Couple this with some well timed, perhaps cynical, pricing changes and it's enough to put people like me off of the iPhone. I love the tech but couldn't cope with the dropped calls.


  • I wonder how much this lack of control hurts/annoys Apple?
  • I wonder if they will ever get so annoyed that they will break off the exclusive deal with AT&T and open up the market in the USA?
  • Perhaps Apple will even have a go at trying to create their own network carrier?

Then again, if Apple keep selling 1.7 million devices in 3 days (not all linked to AT&T though as these sales are across multiple countries) you might not blame them for thinking "what's all the fuss about?".

Source 2 - pitching. Part of my job is to pitch. Pitch to prospects, to clients and to people I'm trying to recruit. One of the unique selling points (USPs) I believe in and always talk about is the concept of "partnership". I often get challenged on it.

  • "Why is partnership important?"
  • "Isn't everyone a good partner?"
  • "How are you guys different to the next guy who is going to take me to the Cubs game and pretend to be friends?"

I tend to respond with "there are 2 types of partners". I call them solid & hollow partnerships. Solid partnerships are those where the relationship is mutually beneficial and each party can come to the table with feedback and discuss options. These partnerships can survive, perhaps thrive, when the feedback is good & bad. I think this is summed up best by a quote I read in Guy Kawasaki's Art of the Start.

"In giving advice, seek to help, not please, your friend." Solon

This type of partnership seems a lot more beneficial to me but takes a lot of work. You have to get good at giving out and receiving good & bad news. Remember some people, as Tom Cruise & Jack Nicholson suggest, "cannot handle the truth".

Take aways from partnership

  • Partnership gives you reach beyond your natural grasp
  • Partnership is hard work
  • Good partners get more out of the relationship. Discussions are 2 way, built on respect and feedback


I love to listen to podcasts and over the last couple of weeks the concept of "consistency" has come up frequently. User interface designers, including myself, think of consistency as part of a heuristic evaluation. Jakob Nielsen tells us about "Consistency and standards" and we interface designers try to make sure people don't have to think about what happens if they click on a given button or link. The exact same heuristic can be applied to delivery of content and this was a "light bulb moment" for me.

An audience trusts sources of information that deliver consistently. An audience has expectations for this content, is excited by the next episode and is disappointed if the next edition is skipped. Just think about your favourite newspaper, radio show, TV program, blog. Think about phoning your parents at the weekend. This experience or media is delivered consistently and it's part of why you like it and it's an important part of a relationship with the experience.

Take aways from consistency

  • The consistent delivery of content is a user experience principle
  • When creating content it's important to deliver consistently
  • I need to deliver this blog consistently if I want to build an audience who trusts in me - I'm trying for 1 post every 2 weeks!


2 places where this word "curation" keeps cropping up:

Source 1 - buzzword-de-jour for Content Strategy folks. Pick your article:

  1. The Content Strategist as Digital Curator on A list apart
  2. On Curation and Curators: Skills vs. Roles at User Interface Engineering
  3. Curation nation at Brain Traffic

I don't think I'm clever enough to work through the semantics of "curation" or "curator". I don't think I care much about the nuances of definition. I subscribe to the Brain Traffic point of view:

"We don’t care what you call it. If it’s needed, just do the work. And I think this activity of content curation is much needed."

Source 2 - App stores on the TWIG podcast. It seems that a gating factor in Google's app store proposition is the curation of apps. Separating the good from the bad, or more seriously, the safe from the unsafe. One idea discussed on TWIG was the idea of letting 3rd parties solve the problem on behalf of Google. If Google opens up the Android Marketplace API then developers can come along and build a better app store than Google. What a great idea! I wonder if this principle could be applied to more than just app stores? Perhaps someone will do something cool with The Guardian API?

Take aways from curation

  • Too much information is always a big problem for users
  • Folks involved in the user experience field need to make sure they understand the "information overload" problem and help users get to the good stuff
  • Content providers can look to open their platforms & methods of content delivery to provide opportunities for others to curate content in new and interesting ways

Over to you

Feedback welcome!

  • what do these words mean to you?
  • have you heard these words come up more frequently recently?
  • what words have been coming up in your world?

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